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In the galleries: Posters as a medium for serious but jubilant communication

“Towards a Black University Conference” (1968) by Lloyd McNeill and Lou Stovall reflects the workshop’s wide-ranging interests in community events. (The Lou Stovall Workshop / Hemphill Artworks)
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The title of Hemphill Artworks’ “What’s Going Around: Lou Stovall & the Community Poster” gives the longtime D.C. printmaker top billing. But the show includes pieces by other notables who squeegeed ink across silk-screens at Workshop Inc., the studio Stovall founded in 1968. These include Sam Gilliam, Gene Davis and Paul Reed, as well as Stovall’s frequent collaborator, artist-musician Lloyd McNeill, and his spouse, artist Di Stovall.

The show also spotlights one other co-star: Washington in the 1960s and ’70s. Many of the posters promote art shows, jazz performances and community gatherings, often within walking distance of the building where Stovall established his studio, near what was then Dupont Circle’s gallery row. Such placards as McNeill and Stovall’s for “P St. Public Pow Wow” and “Bicycledelic - Summer in the Parks” evoke a vanished world, and worldview.

Whether flying solo or collaborating with McNeill, Stovall produced posters that optimized the directness of basic screen printing. Bright colors and robust forms, usually stylized representations but sometime entirely abstract shapes, draw the eye to pitches for Sun Ra, Roberta Flack and Arena Stage. The inked areas, set off by a canny use of white space, are usually separate but occasionally overlap. Even the densest Stovall and McNeill design, however, can’t rival Gilliam’s “T-Shirt - EEO,” printed with an actual shirt. The poster turns tie-dye into an oceanic force, glimmering atop silver paper.

If some of the artworks appear more institutional, that’s probably because they were made for such entities as the Peace Corps and the National School Lunch Program. (The latter is one of three by Di Stovall.) Yet the Kennedy Center and National Gallery of Art gave Davis and Reed, respectively, the liberty to design posters that don’t look like the products of an ad agency.

One of the brashest pieces was commissioned by the Corcoran Gallery of Art for its 32nd biennial exhibition in 1971, and is credited to Stovall and the Corcoran’s director at the time, Walter Hopps. (who probably left most of the practical work to Stovall).

Hopps died in 2005 and the Corcoran Gallery was legally dissolved in 2014. Also bygone is the spirit of the poster’s era, a time before the rise of the corporate branding industry, when a slash of yellow across a black smudge might be allowed to represent a major museum’s identity.

More than 20 years after the earliest poster in “What’s Going Around” was printed, New York’s Fab 5 Freddy and Lee Quiñones visited Washington to publicize “Wild Style,” a movie set in the early hip-hop scene. While here, they painted a mural that sparked a D.C. graffiti movement, according to “AeroSouls: Murals for Our Time.” The retrospective, stretched across eight large panels in the windows of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, is a compact history of local graffiti and murals from 1982 to 2020. (The panels are supplemented by videos that can be summoned via QR codes.)

Much of the exhibition is devoted to the simple tags of spray painters such as the late Cool Disco Dan, whose efforts were notable more for audacity and ubiquity than for artfulness. More impressive are recent murals such as “Crossroads,” in which artists Colbert Kennedy, Pose 2 (Maxx Moses) and Chelove (Cita Sadeli) depict Asian-style demons on two wheels or horseback, racing cyclists on the adjacent Metropolitan Branch Trail. The playful mural is worth a trip to the far edge of NoMa to view at full scale.

What’s Going Around: Lou Stovall & the Community Poster, 1967-1976 Through July 17 at Hemphill Artworks, 434 K St. NW.

AeroSouls: Murals for Our Time Through July 22 at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW.

The Winklers

Drawings, paintings and handmade books are included in “The Marvelous Mundane,” Max-Karl Winkler and Ellen Verdon Winkler’s Art Factory show. But prints dominate, not just in number, but also in the local couple’s aesthetic. Both artists play with print and bookmaking formats, using internal frames to boost pictorial drama. Several of Max-Karl Winkler’s subjects are enclosed within circles, and in his “The Checkered Scarf,” a woman’s torso, topknot and titular scarf all protrude from the oblong that contains her head. Verdon Winkler sometimes centers small renderings on vast expanses of blank tan paper, and even adapts a similar strategy to painting by splitting an oil study of oak leaves between two rectangular planes.

A few of his prints add color, but Winkler is showing mostly black-and-white woodcuts characterized by clean lines, strong blacks and precise compositions. His prints of small-town sites are bolder and more tightly focused than his drawings of the same scenes, which are shown side by side. Verdon Winkler employs multiple techniques, notably drypoint and chine collé, to produce gauzier, almost painterly images in what might be called a rainbow of grays.

Although such craft is far from mundane, the artists usually do depict the everyday. Each has a fancy for modest buildings, whether Verdon Winkler’s “Beer Shop, Silver Spring” or Winkler’s commonplace structures that just happen to have the Colorado Rockies as backdrops. The marvelous is not the thing itself, but the way of looking at it.

Max-Karl and Ellen Verdon Winkler: The Marvelous Mundane Through July 17 at Art Factory, 9419 Battle St., Manassas, Va.

Eleanor Kotlarik Wang

The beguilingly motley collage-paintings in “Twilight,” Eleanor Kotlarik Wang’s show at Studio Gallery, could be either coalescing or disintegrating. The surfaces appear battered and weathered, and buttons, fringes and bits of cloth are sewn into the compositions. Is the artist simply salvaging and repurposing worn items, or stitching them together to make something entirely new?

Wang’s goal surely is to achieve some kind of synthesis, however rickety. The Virginia artist has lived in Slovakia and China, where she developed an interest in traditional crafts and fabrics. That preoccupation is partly submerged in such works as the show’s title picture, an abstraction that flirts with being a night-sky landscape. Yet the painted-cloth scraps affixed to the picture, daubed in complementary shades of yellow, fuchsia and black, don’t blend entirely into the whole. Wang’s vision of unity is scrambled intriguingly by her need to call attention to its assorted ingredients.

Eleanor Kotlarik Wang: Twilight Through July 17 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW.

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